Local & Regional

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Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin will soon decide on a bill that would only allow judges to sentence juveniles convicted of murder to life in prison without parole.

The Oklahoman reports that lawmakers introduced the measure because of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that practically eliminated mandatory life without parole sentences for offenders who are accused of killing when they were 17 or younger.

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A judge has dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the city over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white officer because a similar suit is pending in federal court.

The Tulsa World reports that District Judge Mary Fitzgerald dismissed the lawsuit filed by the family of Terence Crutcher on Thursday. Attorneys for the city sought the dismissal, citing unnecessary costs and potentially conflicting rulings.

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The Oklahoma Legislature has wrapped up the 2018 legislative session, heading home early after a year that included two special sessions, massive teacher protests and a last-minute flurry of emotionally charged proposals.

The House and Senate both adjourned late Thursday, three weeks earlier than required under the state Constitution.

Lawmakers already had approved a $7.6 billion budget to fund state government, the largest in state history. It includes pay raises for teachers and state workers and increased funding for schools and state agencies.

OPMX

At least 99 Oklahoma lawmakers are determined to have the 10 Commandments displayed on state property.

That's how many senators and representatives voted for House Bill 2177, which allows for the display of documents historically significant to the United States or Oklahoma, including the 10 Commandments.

"Do you think any of these other historically relevant religions should be able to display artifacts as well?" Rep. Jacob Rosecrants asked HB2177's author, Rep. John Bennett.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler’s first term looks to be the focus of this year’s election for the office.

A debate this week hosted by the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police touched on relationships with law enforcement and turnover in the DA’s office. Republican challenger Tammy Westcott said she had a trial with Kunzweiler.

"He has tons of trial experience as a prosecutor. That doesn’t make a good leader. Doesn’t make a good manager of a DA’s office," Westcott said.

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HOUSTON (AP) — The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased by 11 this week to 1,032.

At this time a year ago there were 877 active rigs.

Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes reported Friday that 834 rigs drilled for oil this week and 196 for gas. Two were listed as miscellaneous.

Among major oil- and gas-producing states, New Mexico added six rigs and Oklahoma and Texas each gained two. Alaska, Louisiana and North Dakota added one apiece.

Colorado declined by one.

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Oklahoma hopes to attract more business from auto makers and aerospace companies.

Lawmakers approved a slate of incentives to start next year: a 50 percent credit for tuition reimbursement and up to 10 percent on salaries for engineers, along with a $5,000 credit for those engineers themselves.

Rep. Scott Fetgatter said it’s to land an undisclosed company set to invest up to $1 billion in the state and need as many as 2,500 workers.

Tulsa Police Department

A portion of Tulsa’s public safety tax revenue next year could go toward overhauling the police department website and social media accounts as the city ramps up hiring.

"We’re trying to do just an unprecedented level of recruitment and then trying to get the best possible applicant pool for academy sizes that are unprecedented," said Mayor G.T. Bynum.

The best possible Tulsa Police Department recruits, however, aren't being reached through traditional recruiting efforts.

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An Oklahoma man who pleaded guilty in the fatal stabbing of his parents, two brothers and a sister sobbed as he testified in the murder trial of his brother, who is also charged in the attack.

Robert Bever told jurors on Friday that he doesn't know what he was thinking at the time of July 2015 attack. He testified on behalf of the defense in the murder trial of his younger brother, 19-year-old Michael Bever.

Robert Bever is serving life in prison without parole. His brother's attorneys say the elder brother is to blame for the attack.

In the local news:

  • An adoption bill and open carry gun legislation head to the Governor.
  • "Unity Learning" is the proposed new name for Jackson Elementary.
  • The Bever trial enters a new phase.

New Name Sought for Jackson Elementary

May 4, 2018
Tulsa Public Schools

The process of renaming some of the Tulsa Public Schools moves forward. A committee is recommending Andrew Jackson Elementary be renamed the United Learning Academy.

The District is considering new names for Jackson as well as Robert E. Lee, Columbus and Chouteau Elementary because of the namesake’s connection to slavery and or mistreatment of native peoples. 

No Tulsa Tornado

May 4, 2018
KWGS News

Wednesday night’s storm damage in Tulsa was caused by high winds and NOT a tornado. That word from the National Weather Service after experts surveyed the damage around 13th and South Peoria and near Woodward Park.

The storm knocked out power and downed awnings and billboards at Phat Philly’s. No one was injured.

The high winds also caused scattered tree damage in the upscale Maple Ridge area near 21st and South Peoria. 

State Rests in Bever Trial

May 4, 2018
KWGS News File Photo

The defense will begin laying out its case in the murder trail of Michael Bever. The prosecuted rested its case yesterday.

A police recorded video was played for the jurors. It showed the 16-year-old discussing the murders with police detectives.

Bever is accused of taking part in the murder of three siblings and both parents in 2015 in Broken Arrow. An older brother is already serving prison time. 

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma lawmaker's personal experience has led to a new law that prohibits covert use of a GPS tracker.

The law signed Tuesday comes after Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, found a tracking device on his vehicle in December, The Oklahoman reported. It doesn't apply to auto dealers or lenders who have a buyer's consent to have a GPS tracker installed so the vehicle can be more easily repossessed if payments aren't made.

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VINITA, Okla. (AP) — Authorities in northeast Oklahoma say recent reports of witness intimidation are incorrect and can disrupt their investigation into the disappearance of two teenagers nearly 20 years ago.

Craig County Sheriff Heath Winfrey said Wednesday that allegations of "warning shots" being fired in a threat against a witness aren't true. The allegations are in connection to the case involving Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible.

The teenagers disappeared in 1999 following the killings of Ashley Freeman's parents. The girls' bodies were never found.

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The number of deaths due to flu in Oklahoma this season has now surpassed 280.

The Oklahoma Department of Health said Thursday that 283 people have died from the virus since the flu season began Sept. 1 — the most fatalities since the agency began tracking the illness in 2009. The previous record number of flu-related deaths was 130 recorded a year ago.

In addition, a record number of more than 4,700 people have been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms so far this season.

KWGS File photo

Moldy, crumbling and uninhabitable — those are the conditions at some of Oklahoma’s prisons.

The state may issue $116.5 million dollars in bonds for repairs and improvements to the facilities. Senator Roger Thompson said maintenance and repairs have been overlooked for too long.

"Whenever we looked at our prison system a few years ago, because of funding to the prison system, there was not even a repair fund until just two years ago," Thompson said.

The Children's Society

A bill protecting private agencies if they deny child placements on moral or religious grounds is going to Gov. Mary Fallin after passing both chambers of the Oklahoma legislature on Thursday.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 1140 33–7 before noon, and the House passed the measure 56–21 just after 5 p.m.

House Democrats stalled the final vote on the bill by using procedural motions for almost an hour before Republicans shut them down.

A bill to allow Oklahoman's to carry a gun, even without a permit, has passed the state Senate and goes to the governor.

The bill by Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm passed on a 33―9 vote shortly before 11 p.m. Wednesday as senators met late into the night.

Dahm has been pushing for a constitutional carry provision in state law and called Senate Bill 1212’s passage a major victory for the Second Amendment.

In the local news:

  • Storms pound Oklahoma.
  • The Tulsa City Council considers changes to the sidewalk cafe permit process.
  • Jurors hear testimony that Michael Bever's blood was found on the handle of the murder weapon.

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Thousands of ancient clay tablets, seals and other Iraqi archaeological objects that were smuggled into the U.S. and shipped to the head of arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby were returned to the Iraqi government on Wednesday.

OKC Thunder

 

Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Wednesday that coach Billy Donovan's job is safe, despite a disappointing season.

Oklahoma City had high expectations this season after trading for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to join reigning MVP Russell Westbrook. Even with the added star power, the Thunder won just one more regular-season game than last year and lost in the first round of the playoffs again.

Heavy Weather Hits Oklahoma

May 3, 2018
KWGS News

More storms are in the forecast for the Tulsa region this afternoon. Some of those will have the potential to be strong to severe, according to the National Weather Service.

Heavy weather rolled through the state last night:

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Oklahoma lawmakers have started the process of striking several proposed ethics rules.

House Joint Resolution 1029 specifically rejects a two-year “cooling off” period for lawmakers and some state employees before becoming lobbyists. Rep. John Paul Jordan said the commission is overstepping its authority.

"The Ethics Commission does not have the ability – or should not have the ability – to regulate the employment of a private citizen. That is not in the state constitution," Jordan said.

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With mandatory life without parole sentences in juvenile cases held unconstitutional, Oklahoma lawmakers have crafted a bill making them possible only in first-degree murder cases.

Senate Bill 1221 would let prosecutors seek and a judge order the sentence. Sen. Kay Floyd said the bill was amended to deal with that subject just last week and with the help of House Speaker Harold Wright's daughter, Angela Marsee, who prosecuted a case the new law could affect.

A group backed by former Oklahoma U.S. Senator Tom Coburn has started its quest to put state lawmakers’ special session tax hikes to a popular vote.

"You know, if people want their taxes raised, then they can vote in favor of it, and if they don’t want their taxes raised, they can vote no," said Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite co-founder Rhonda Vuillemont-Smith.

NWS Graphic

 

The National Weather Service says a "likely" tornado in northwestern Oklahoma has ended the state's record start to the year without a twister.

Meteorologist John Pike said Wednesday that the funnel cloud captured on video by KOCO-TV Tuesday afternoon near Buffalo, about 150 miles  northwest of Oklahoma City, has not yet been confirmed as a tornado.

Harper County Emergency Management Director says no injuries have been reported and the only known damage is a tree that was blown down onto a road.

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Autopsies show five men killed in a natural gas rig explosion in southeastern Oklahoma died of burns and smoke inhalation.

The state medical examiner's office report released Tuesday classifies each death in the Jan. 22 blast as an accident.

The blast occurred in Pittsburg County near Quinton, about 100 southeast of Tulsa. It killed: Matt Smith of McAlester; Parker Waldridge of Crescent; Roger Cunningham from Seminole; Josh Ray of Fort Worth, Texas; and Cody Risk of Wellington, Colorado.

OFS

  Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is asking the U.S. Small Business Administration for a disaster declaration because of wildfires in the state.

Fallin said Wednesday that she's asking the SBA for a disaster declaration for Dewey County that would allow for low-interest loans for homeowners, renters and business owners to repair or replace uninsured property that was damaged by the fires in April.

If the disaster declaration is approved, those in counties adjacent to Dewey County who were affected by the fires would also be eligible for assistance.

ODOT

 

 

Officials have requested an audit from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation after concerns were raised about a county road fund.

Pontotoc, Seminole and Hughes County District Attorney Paul Smith has requested that the Oklahoma State Auditors and Inspector's Office "examine the books and accounts" of the department to find missing funds. He says $230 million is missing from the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges Program.

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